open thread

Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on February 20, 2009 at 03:35 PM

Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”

James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’“

In line with Dean Hogge’s observation are Professor Greenberger’s test results. Nearly two-thirds of the students surveyed said that if they explained to a professor that they were trying hard, that should be taken into account in their grade.

At Vanderbilt, there is an emphasis on what Dean Hogge calls “the locus of control.” The goal is to put the academic burden on the student.

“Instead of getting an A, they make an A,” he said. “Similarly, if they make a lesser grade, it is not the teacher’s fault. Attributing the outcome of a failure to someone else is a common problem.

This informal mission statement, along with special seminars for freshmen, is intended to help “re-teach students about what education is.”

The seminars are integrated into introductory courses. Examples include the conventional, like a global-warming seminar, and the more obscure, like physics in religion.

The seminars “are meant to help students think differently about their classes and connect them to real life,” Professor Brower said.

He said that if students developed a genuine interest in their field, grades would take a back seat, and holistic and intrinsically motivated learning could take place.

Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes, New York Times


To have been accepted at one of the top schools means that a child has done what he was told, followed instructions, kept his eye on the prize, played the game, and won. But does it mean much more?

I did my teaching at Northwestern University, where most of the students had what I came to regard as “the habits of achievement.” They did the reading, most of them could write a respectable paper, many of them talked decently in response to my questions. They made it difficult for me to give them less than a B for the course. But the only students who genuinely interested me went beyond being good students to become passionate ones. Their minds, I could tell, were engaged upon more than merely getting another high grade. The number of such students was remarkably small; if I had to pin it down, I should say they comprised well under 3 percent, and not all of them received A’s from me.

— Joseph Epstein, Obama's Good Students: A dissent on the ‘valedictocracy’

 Thank you, Barbara, for sending me the link to the first article!

Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on February 13, 2009 at 02:40 PM

The humility that facilitates learning may take the form of a simple open, questioning attitude. “One primary trouble with the American educational system is its concern with answers, as opposed to giving students questions,” says C. Roland Christensen, Walmsley University Professor at Harvard. Lecturer on education Catherine Krupnick points out that the capacity to admit one’s ignorance opens doors. “It’s being willing to acknowledge that you don’t know where the moon is on a given night, or how to demonstrate that the world is round,” she says. “And not minding that you don’t know. That’s a wonderful start.” — Secrets of the Super-Learners, Harvard Magazine, 1991

I thought this quote went along very well with this post. “The humility that facilitates learning” … if we can’t admit — and get comfortable with — what we don’t know, and the fact that it will take time to learn, then we may jump too quickly into one philosophy or another, then jump just as quickly out again.

That “capacity to admit one’s ignorance” goes hand in hand with a small child’s excitement as they learn the answer to where the moon is, or why the world is found.

What happens to that capacity for learning? Older children who shrug uncomfortably away from any situation where they might be revealed to be ignorant, where they might feel stupid — what makes them that way? A world where every question has a right answer? Where knowing the right answer is valued above having the adventurous spirit to look for their own answers?

If we can be comfortable with not knowing and embrace the process of learning — if we can be excited by what we don’t know, rather than frightened — who knows what we can accomplish?

Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on February 6, 2009 at 01:00 PM

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men of talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, ‘press on’ has solved, and always will solve, the problems of the human race. — Calvin Coolidge

Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on January 30, 2009 at 04:08 PM

School has an inherent tendency to infantilize children by placing them in a position of having to do as they are told, to occupy themselves with work dictated by someone else and that, moreover, has no intrinsic value — schoolwork is done only because the designer of a curriculum decided that doing the work would shape the doer into a desirable form. I find this offensive, in part because I remember how much I objected as a child to being placed in that situation, but mainly because I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge. — Seymour Papert

A well-motivated student who does not labor under a specific handicap often needs no further human assistance than can be provided by someone who can demonstrate on demand how to do what the learner wants to learn to do. — Ivan Illich

Open thread: Motivation

Published by Lori Pickert on January 23, 2009 at 05:10 PM

Educators’ understandable focus on cognition has sometimes had the unfortunate consequence of minimizing awareness of other equally important factors. Probably the most crucial is motivation.

If one is motivated to learn, one is likely to work hard, to be persistent, to be stimulated rather than discouraged by obstacles, and to continue to learn even when not pressed to do so, for the sheer pleasure of quenching curiosity or stretching one’s faculties in unfamiliar directions. — Howard Gardner

Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on January 16, 2009 at 10:04 PM


As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.  — Henry David Thoreau


Open thread: Friday + Saturday

Published by Lori Pickert on January 9, 2009 at 01:45 PM

Welcome to this week’s open thread! Running the thread over Friday and Saturday seemed to work well last week and gave some people who hadn’t had the opportunity before the chance to participate. So we’re trying it again this week. Thank you for sharing, and have a great weekend!

In the final analysis, a decision to explore the Reggio ideas about early childhood education is based on values; namely, the value placed on children developing capacities for agency, collaboration, dialogue, taking multiple perspectives, learning how to construct rich understandings of the world, and learning how to communicate their understandings to others.We Are All Explorers

Open thread Friday + Saturday

Published by Lori Pickert on January 2, 2009 at 03:18 PM

Well, I meant to get this open thread up early this morning, but as usual, I’m running a bit slow.

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope the year is wonderful and brings exciting adventures!

Here’s a great quote to get us started:

We need to see ourselves as explorers of learning. We are all trying to understand and learn together … While we are talking about all this, we are creating our own culture. — Karen Haigh

Open thread Sunday + Monday

Published by Lori Pickert on December 21, 2008 at 02:21 PM

We are a bit caught up in holiday preparations and a sick great-grandmother, so I didn’t manage to start an open thread yesterday. I am imagining everyone home baking and cleaning and making presents and wrapping...

In case you are around, however, here is an open thread to come say hello and happy holidays!

And we’ll have a good quote about work, too:

What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn’t have done it. Who was it who said, “Blessed is the man who has found his work”? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work — not somebody else’s work. The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great. — Mark Twain

Open thread Saturday

Published by Lori Pickert on December 6, 2008 at 01:05 PM

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. — Wayne Dyer

Welcome to the open thread. Enjoy the conversation.